AliExpress offers a wide range of products at competitive prices and the convenience of global shipping. It is the online marketplace of choice for many regular shoppers and businesses, especially dropshippers. But is AliExpress safe? The internet is full of cautionary tales from customers and dropshippers who made purchases that never arrived, received counterfeit products, or exposed their credit card details to fraudsters. Here’s the lowdown on common AliExpress scams as well as our top tips for safe shopping.

What Is AliExpress?

AliExpress is an online shopping platform where people from around the world can buy products from retailers, most of whom are based in China. The platform competes with online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. It is popular with individual consumers as well as dropshipping businesses.

The platform claims to feature over 11m products in a wide range of categories: from garden furniture to hair extensions, and smartwatches.

aliexpress hair extensions

Is AliExpress Legit?

AliExpress is a legitimate, well-known organization and a reputable site. It is part of the Alibaba Group, a massive longstanding Chinese multinational corporation. Forbes ranked the Alibaba Group as one of the top 100 biggest companies in the world.

The online marketplace is a generally safe place to shop but there are a many, many sellers on the platform and while most sellers are legitimate, scams do happen. This is evident in the reviews.

Out of 144k reviews of AliExpress on Trustpilot, 75% are 5-star, and 17% are 1-star with comments like “Great site for finding bargains” as well as “Items not as described” and even “AliExpress is scamming me.” While it’s important to note that essentially all ecommerce marketplaces have problems with untrustworthy sellers and scammers. Even the king of ecommerce, Amazon, has these kinds of issues though they seem to be much better at policing sellers than most marketplaces.

aliexpress reviews

AliExpress Safety Features

AliExpress has features in place to protect customers and ensure they feel safe to shop. It’s best to take advantage of these features when shopping on the platform.

aliexpress payment security features

1. Buyer Protection Program

AliExpress has a solid refund guarantee that helps make buying from the platform a bit safer. This means that “If you didn’t receive your product or it is significantly different to the description”, they will give you a full refund. They also guarantee on-time delivery which means customers receive a refund if orders are not delivered by a set date.

In addition, in many EU countries, AliExpress offers a 2-year warranty on most products. This may be added automatically or manually selected depending on the product.

2. Payment Protection

All payments are handled by AliExpress itself. This means you don’t need to give your payment details to third-party sellers.

AliExpress uses 3D Secure, an additional layer of card-holder authentication for online payments that improves security and makes it harder for fraudsters to use your credit card or debit cards.

To back up its buyer protection program, AliExpress uses an escrow payment system. This means that when you pay for your order, your money is held in an account until after the product is delivered. Only then is it released to the seller.

3. Guaranteed Genuine

Some products on AliExpress are labeled “Guaranteed Genuine.” These products have been verified by AliExpress. According to the site, “Should you still receive a counterfeit product, you will get a full refund (shipping costs included).”

How To Use AliExpress Safely

Features like Buyer Protection help to make AliExpress safe, but it’s still important to be vigilant to avoid getting ripped off when shopping online. Here are some best practice habits to help you select reputable sellers and avoid fraud.

Assess The Seller

There are lots of ways to gauge whether a seller is reliable.

1. Sort by orders. When you search for products, sort the results to prioritize sellers who have fulfilled a lot of orders. This suggests that they are more trustworthy than new sellers because they haven’t been removed by the platform for sketchy behavior after a ton of orders.

2. View store data. You can find the following information about sellers on AliExpress:

  • How long the store has been open on AliExpress
  • Percentage of positive reviews
  • Number of items sold
  • Number of regular buyers
  • Store rating – which is assessed according to the factors below

aliexpress store rating diagram

3. Browse seller’s reviews. Check if any previous buyers have mentioned delivery time, shipping options, seller communication, or product quality. The more satisfied customers the better. Be careful when reading online reviews on Aliexpress (and elsewhere), however, as they can often be easily faked.

4. Talk to the seller. If you are making an expensive or important order, consider messaging the seller beforehand. If they respond quickly and helpfully, this is a positive indication. Any unusual requests or pressure to rush transactions should be a red flag. Furthermore, it’s probably a good idea not to click any links they send and to never move your transaction off of the platform, as it would no longer be covered under Aliexpress’ refund policy.

Assess The Product

Once you’ve assessed the seller, focus on the product. If you’re dropshipping, choosing the right product is especially important.

  1. Study the product description. Make sure you understand what is and is not included. Check the dimensions of the product, shipping terms, and information on additional charges. Sellers often try to make objects look larger or of higher quality than they are, so be sure to do your own research. Products with detailed descriptions and lots of photos are preferable.
  2. Read product reviews. Products with lots of recent, positive reviews are best. Again, don’t base your decision only on reviews, as they are easily faked.
  3. Check the price. Is it too good to be true? Does the seller offer far lower prices than other online stores? That could be a sign that something is amiss, though Aliexpress products are generally significantly cheaper than US retailers and platforms like Amazon because they often work directly with manufacturers.
  4. Ask for proof of any compliance certificates.
  5. Look for products labeled “Choice”. These include fast delivery and free returns. There are plenty of good deals in this category.

aliexpress bag hanging item on sale

Make The Most of Buyer Protection

Scammers know how to get around AliExpress’s safety features. Here are some of the ways you can avoid this problem.

  1. Stay on Site. If a seller asks to contact you outside the platform (e.g. by email or Whatsapp) or requests that you use a payment method that takes you outside the AliExpress platform (e.g. bank transfer), say no. You lose access to all the protections available on the platform when you leave the site and it is most likely a scam.
  2. Be aware of the protection period. Don’t leave it too long before opening a dispute if something goes wrong. Don’t allow scammers to use delay tactics or persuade you to close a dispute if it isn’t resolved.
  3. Keep records of all your seller interactions and take a few photos of products when they arrive if they are not as described.
  4. Open a dispute with AliExpress if you have a problem with your order that the seller cannot resolve. Keep an eye on your AliExpress account in case additional information is requested.
  5. Never confirm delivery until the product has been delivered, even if the seller pressures you to do otherwise.

Maintain Good Cyber Hygiene

Whether you’re online shopping or doing other activities online, there are some basic habits you should maintain to avoid security risks and make sure you don’t fall victim to fraud.

  • Be cautious of emails asking you to update your account or click on a link. Check the email address. Consider whether it makes sense for the company to make this request at this time.
  • Set up a strong password on your account to prevent hacker attacks and identity theft.
  • Think twice before sharing credit or debit card details or other sensitive information.

Common Types of Scams (And How To Avoid Them)

Fraudsters have lots of clever ways of taking your money while you’re online shopping. Here are some of the most common scams on AliExpress and some tips for staying safe on the online marketplace.

Fake Seller

Some scammers set up online stores on AliExpress despite having no products to sell. They may provide a fake tracking number or a tracking number belonging to a different order to make an order seem real.

Tip: Don’t shop from sellers who have fulfilled very few orders or have many negative reviews.

Brushing Scam

AliExpress scammers set up fake accounts to buy their own products and write fake reviews. This makes it seem like their products are better than they really are. Watch out for products with a strange distribution of reviews like 99% five-star reviews and 1% one-star reviews.

Tip: Always check the negative reviews even if there are tons of positive ones.

Offsite Payment Scam

Scammers may ask you to pay for a product outside of AliExpress’s safe payment system. You may be asked to send money to the seller’s bank account or their friend’s account in return for benefits like discounts or faster shipping.

When the product is not delivered, the buyer cannot be refunded because the money is not in AliExpress’s escrow system. If the buyer has shared payment information with the fraudster, they are at risk of further fraud.

Tip: Only pay for products through AliExpress’s secure payment system.

Phishing Scam

Phishing scammers send emails or messages that appear to come from AliExpress. They may ask for your payment information or include a link that leads to a fake website to steal your username and password.

To avoid this scam:

  • Check the email address carefully if you receive unexpected messages about an order.
  • Think twice before clicking on links in messages or emails (just go to directly instead).
  • Never share payment information via email, Whatsapp, direct messages, etc.

Extra Costs Scam

In this scam, sellers ask for additional money for unexpected shipping costs or customs clearance. They may try to appeal for sympathy with a story about why the extra money is needed.

Tip: Alert AliExpress if you are asked to pay extra money after the order is confirmed.

Fakes, Counterfeits, and Compliance Scams

Unscrupulous AliExpress sellers may list fake items or counterfeit products, like mislabeled medicine, knock-off branded goods, or artificial wigs described as human hair.

They may also sell products with fake compliance certificates. For example, some electronic equipment is regulated in the UK and must be RohS certified to show that it does not contain hazardous substances.

chargeable battery

To avoid these scams:

  • Shop for products labeled “Guaranteed Genuine”.
  • Compare the price and appearance of the product to verified products.
  • Research certificates to check if they look like they’re supposed to.
  • Ask for verifiable proof of certification before making a deal.
  • Beware of new sellers with difficult-to-obtain certifications.
  • When the product is delivered, examine it to ensure it is genuine, if possible, so that you can return it quickly if necessary.

Request To Close a Dispute

When a buyer opens a dispute about a missing or unsatisfactory product, the seller asks them to close the dispute ticket and promises to issue a full or partial refund or send the product again. While the customer is distracted by this new solution, the Buyer Protection times out so they cannot reopen the dispute.

Tip: Do not allow the seller to pressure you into closing a dispute. Don’t miss your Buyer Protection window.

Ship-and-Switch Scam

Sometimes stores will intentionally send buyers a different item from the one they ordered, hoping the buyer won’t notice or won’t bother to open a dispute. The seller might send a cheaper item or an item they are trying to get rid of.

Tip: Even if you don’t mind receiving something slightly different, it’s still worth reporting. You may receive a full or partial refund.

Tips For Dropshippers

When you shop for yourself and things go wrong, it’s disappointing. But when you shop for your customers, the stakes are higher. Defective or missing goods and late deliveries will cost you business and earn you bad reviews.

Here are some extra steps you can take to minimize dropshipping risks, protect your brand, and avoid a customer service nightmare.

  1. Order the product for yourself first. That way you can test the quality of the product as well as the seller’s service. Do this at regular intervals to check that nothing has changed.
  2. Think legal. Consider issues like intellectual property, compliance, and safety before you sell products, especially if the product is electronic or for children.
  3. Set up good customer support systems. Customers are more likely to be understanding if you offer transparency and strong communication.

So, Is AliExpress Safe?

Yes, AliExpress is a great platform for online shopping and dropshipping, and it is generally safe, but you should take care when selecting products. Check reviews and read the small print before making any purchases. It’s also important to use the safety features available and stay on the site to ensure you get the benefit of the buyer protection program and safe payment systems.